Favorite Movie Relationships

         Smart, Witty, Loving … and Unconventional
                               
By Jeff Salter

             I can think of several film relationships which are smart, witty and loving.  And, having enjoyed them on screen, naturally I love to write those kinds of characters.
            Even though this week’s topic was fashioned after my own suggestion, I found myself struggling to limit today’s discussion to a single favorite movie relationship.  As I discussed possibilities, my wife reminded me of how much we’ve both enjoyed William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles in “The Thin Man” [based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett].
            Since I knew I appreciated this Nick-and-Nora relationship (but couldn’t explain exactly why), I did some research and came up with some interesting info and several great quotes. 

The Thin Man (1934)
            Filmed in scarcely two weeks for less than $230,000, this movie spawned five sequels (none of which were as good as the original).  I was surprised to learn that the ‘thin’ man was not Nick Charles — it was the missing man Nick was hired to locate in this first film.  [The movie public in the 1930s was similarly confused because all the sequels had some variation of ‘thin man’ in their titles.]
            A big plot wrinkle is that Nick doesn’t even want to take the case in question, because it’s supposedly their honeymoon! 

Nick and Nora
            Nora is a wealthy socialite and Nick a retired police detective … so they’ve moved in very different circles.  Yet, each is comfortable around the others’ acquaintances and friends. 

             As Kieran Kenney writes:  Nick and Nora “have astounding chemistry.  As husband and wife, they are equals, equally hard-drinking, equally witty, equally fun-loving.  They have the same sense of adventure, the same stubbornness, the same competitiveness.”  I can’t swear all those ‘equals’ and ‘sames’ would function terribly well in a real-life relationship, but they’re fantastic on-screen.  Nick and Nora have a playful, loving, relaxed relationship and work beautifully together as a team. 
            As blogger Jason Marshall says:  Nick and Nora “are the ultimate in posh sophistication without an ounce of snobbery.”  They have “down-to-earth elegance.  They are confident in themselves and each other so they don’t feel the need … to look down their noses” at the rest of us.  Since this film was released during the Great Depression, characters such as these were likely a welcome relief to most movie-goers. 

No ‘silly and tired conventions’
            When Nora ‘catches’ Nick embracing the daughter of his friend (the missing ‘thin man’) Nick just sticks out his tongue.  In return, Nora makes a silly face … without any hint of jealousy.  Marshall puts it this way:  “She knows he wouldn’t cheat on her and he knows she knows this.  When writers create smart characters they can dispense with the silly and tired conventions of storytelling on which so many movies rely, giving us fresh characters exhibiting genuine but unconventional behavior like this.”
            In my own novel manuscripts, I’ve tried to avoid those ‘silly and tired conventions’ by writing characters I believe are ‘fresh’ and ‘genuine’.  [We’ll find out how successful I am as soon as I wrangle an agent, or publisher, or editor.]

             News flash:  A re-make of “The Thin Man” is reportedly in the works for release in 2013 … and Johnny Depp is supposed to be cast as Nick Charles.  Hmm.  Not sure about that …  In four outings as Capt. Jack Sparrow, Depp has proven he can portray tipsy … but does he possess sufficient acting skills to depict the REST of Nick’s complexities?
            Roger Ebert once said that William Powell “is to dialog as Fred Astaire is to dance.  His delivery is so droll and insinuating, so knowing and innocent at the same time, that it hardly matters what he’s saying.”  Powell is one of my all-time favorite actors so he leaves large shoes for Depp to try on.  Success or failure of this ‘do-over’ might depend upon who plays Nora.

            Question:  What relationships between movie characters have YOU truly enjoyed?  What made them so memorable?

             Guest fox next week:  Be sure to visit next Thursday (26th) because my Guest Fox is the vivacious, witty, talented, and unpredictable Runere McLain.

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
This entry was posted in Jeff Salter, movies, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Favorite Movie Relationships

  1. Thank you for your post, Jeff. “The Thin Man” is classic that remains a fun film.

    I’d answer your question, only the list of movie couples I’ve enjoyed would probably fill a book.

    Like you, I doubt Johnny Depp can do the role of Nick Charles justice. Maybe George Clooney. As for who should play Nora, you got me there.

    Your write-up on “The Thin Man” brings to mind a line Myrna Loy delivered in another film: “Some say the movies should be more like life. I say life should be more like the movies.”

    A bit of movie trivia: I once read that Myrna Loy was John Dillinger’s favorite actress. Why was he at the Biograph Theater in Chicago the night the FBI finally caught up with him and gunned him down? It was to watch her in “Manhattan Melodrama”. And yes, it was a gangster film.

    Keep up the good work!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Mary Ann. Only two things work against this film, at least for modern audiences: one (as the writers I quoted indicate) is the secondary romance between Maureen O’Sullivan and her beau. The other is that inebriation doesn’t ‘play’ as well these days as it did in the 1930s. But, for anyone willing to overlook those two factors, the movie holds up well even after some 76 years.
      I’d never heard that business about Dillinger. Interesting.

      Like

  2. danicaavet says:

    Yet another movie I’ve never seen. I’m beginning to feel like I was sheltered or something 🙂 I found out yesterday that Johnny Depp is supposed to be playing Tonto in Disney’s movie Lone Ranger. Huh. We’ll see how that goes. I love Johnny Depp, but do they have to make a movie out of every show that was ever on television??

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Danica, you need to spend a long weekend with me and Jillian — we’ll get you indoctrinated in the ‘oldies’ of the Silver Screen.
      But speaking of TV, I had STARTED to include in this column a brief discussion of the relationship between the hapless Maj. Tony Nelson and the voluptuous, captivating genie in “I Dream of Jeannie”. You see, that TV series highlighted many adolescent fantasies, at a time I was, uh … an adolescent. I mean, Barbara Eden in a Hollywood version of a harem outfit? Wow.
      But fortunately for my readers here, today’s topic was not about television relationships.

      Like

  3. Laurie Ryan says:

    In order to answer this, I had to go pull up a list of movies to look at. You always make me research, Jeff. 🙂 Anyhow, I think that, for me, it’s not the characteristics of the relationship, so much as the emotional bond between them that draws me in. Ghost, Somewhere in Time, Brigadoon. Those are some of the ones that stand out for me.

    Like

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Laurie, I also enjoyed Ghost, for that reason and others. Whoopie did a wonderful acting job ‘channeling’ that spirit. I thought it was an especially vivid depiction of the little demons dragging someone down into Hell. Made me shudder.
      I remember liking Somewhere in Time, but can’t remember much about it.
      But here’s where I differ: I could NEVER get interested in Brigadoon. I’ve seen most of the movie and didn’t care for it and I’ve seen an entire stage play version (college) and thought it was pretty awful. I’m told by my mom that I don’t have enough ‘culture’ so that may be the reason. LOL
      Thanks for visiting again today.

      Like

  4. jbrayweber says:

    I’d follow Johnny Depp to the ends of the earth. Just sayin’. 🙂

    I can’t think of any couples that jump out at me right this moment, but I do love the chemistry Gary Cooper could produce in his roles. Same with Maureen O’Hara. I love the love/hate relationships like Scarlett and Rhett, or Brick and Maggie in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.

    Great post, Jeff!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Jenn. I figured you’d be exceptionally fond of Depp … especially since you love pirates so much!
      Yeah, Cooper was terrific in most of his roles (except for his very early films, which I generally do not like).
      I used to be in love with O’Hara. Fiery redhead!
      Glad you visited today, Jenn, and congrats on your new release!

      Like

  5. Sharon says:

    I beg to differ on Johnny Depp’s acting abilities. He has been in more films than the Pirate movies, and shows a versatility sadly lacking in many actors these days. I think he would do a great job filling those shoes, and will be sure to see it when it comes out.

    Maureen O’Hara was a favorite of mine as well, and even with actors such as Brian Keith and John Wayne she was able to portray very believable chemistry.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      True, Sharon, Depp has a lot more creds than the pirate stuff. My favorite role of his was as the gypsy in ‘Chocolate’. I can’t think of another role that I liked. Maybe I’ll look up his movie list … prob. one or two others. I think Depp is one of those actors people either love or hate. I don’t love him.
      Oh, just remembered — Depp was rather good in the Dillinger movie.
      Thanks for posting, Sharon. We’re pleased to welcome Depp-lovers to the blog.

      Like

  6. Tonya Kappes says:

    I always loved Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. They always had good chemistry. Doris Day and Rock Hudson are my absolute favorites!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      I’ve liked Tom Hanks in nearly everything except Bachelor Party (or a name similar to that).
      I’ve only liked about half of Meg Ryan’s roles. She was good in ‘harry met sally’ and in the movie (with Martin Short) about a shrinking ray — can’t recall the title.
      My favorite Doris Day movie is a Touch of Mink with Cary Grant.
      Thanks for visiting today, Tonya.

      Like

  7. Let’s see….my favorites would have to be Richard Gere (Lancelot) and Julia Ormond (Guinevere) in First Knight (with one of the best movie kisses ever). And then there’s James Franco (Tristan) and Sophia Myles (Isolde), and let’s not forget Gerard Butler (Gerry) and Hilary Swank (Holly) in PS I LOVE YOU.

    Great post, Jeff! So glad I had some time to drop by today!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      I enjoyed that version of Lancelot also … Julia Ormond is a favorite of mine.
      I haven’t seen the other two, but I know a lot of ladies swoon over Gerard Butler.
      I know you’ve been busy with you recent release.
      I finally got a chance to start Raeliksen … and I’m about half-way through. I had to put it down for a few days, though, because of some unforeseen schedule obligations. Eager to get back to it.
      Thanks for visiting today, Renee.

      Like

  8. Jillian says:

    somehow I knew you were going to pick this one. I was debating it myself, I love these movies. AND you’re right, Nick and Nora trust each other implicitly and that is awesome. The wit of these movies is amazing, too. I do not see Johnny Depp, as charming as he can be, doing this role justice. When I heard that last week, I was shattered. Some things just should not be remade.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Jillian, Danica needs someone to help navigate through the golden oldies of cinema — she’s led way too sheltered a movie life. I volunteered you and me. We’ll need some brownies and probably a case of beer. Your place okay?

      Like

      • YUP!! Beer and brownies kind of clash, though- let’s have popcorrn first and brownies when the beer is gone.

        Like

      • jeff7salter says:

        Good point … don’t want any culinary clashes.
        Chips & dips go better with beer.
        I’m not wild about popcorn, but when I do eat it, I only like kettle corn because it’s sweet.
        The brownies would be good to nibble on through the film festival.
        BTW I’ll need a nap between movies. LOL

        Like

  9. Danielle says:

    I agree with Tonya. I’ve always loved Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks together on screen. And when I was a teenager, I couldn’t get enough of Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo and Juliet.

    Like

  10. jeff7salter says:

    Thanks for visiting, Danielle. I enjoyed ‘You’ve Got Mail’ — though I thought it dragged out a bit — but I couldn’t get into ‘Sleepless in Seattle.’ Might be a gender thing.
    I love the Romeo & Juliet story and I’ve read the Shakespeare play twice I think. But not seen this movie version with DiCaprio. I saw the one in ’69 (?) directed by Zefferilli … and it was terrific.
    Hope you’ll visit again, Danielle. I’m here every Thursday and the Resident Foxes have the other weekdays. This coming Thurs., I have a Guest Fox!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s